Heavy Reading…Heavy Questions

I’ve been haunted by the images of Cambodia from the books I have been reading. I suppose that I grew up knowing that something happened there. I didn’t know what exactly, and had no idea the extent of the brutality, but I did know that there was a war, just as there was war in Vietnam. I will admit, however, that the first time I saw “The Killing Fields,” I thought that the story was about Vietnam, not Cambodia. In my young mind, all of Southeast Asia was a little mixed up. “The Killing Fields” came out in 1984, and I was 8 years old. I don’t know for sure when I first saw it, but it wasn’t too long after it came out. And I will never forget it. It’s just one of those movies that reaches deep down inside, grabs hold and rips everything out, leaving you completely empty.

I must give a lot of credit for my political and historical awareness to my parents and not just movies. Although my Dad likes to joke that he doesn’t have a lot of education, I know that is far from true. We certainly were taught about world events and geography. Our house was full of books and National Geographic magazines.

The genocide that occurred in Camboda is just too horrific to be understood or believed. I think that it affects me in a way because it is something that happened during my own lifetime, in fact, for practically the whole duration of my life. If I had been born there, I would have been born into the heart of the Khmer Rouge rule. I probably would have been born into complete and utter poverty in a displaced person’s camp. I would have starved everyday waiting for just a few spoonfuls of rice gruel. To be honest, I probably would have died. What chance did newborn babies have when supposedly strong adults wasted away to nothing or were taken away and never seen again? I know that this topic is far from the light-hearted fare I like to blog about. It’s just that I have been incapable of thinking about anything else this week.

We are truly fortunate people to never have suffered as billions of people have suffered around the world, and continue to do so everyday. Or maybe I should say “I am fortunate” as I never know who is reading this. In an effort to become more informed about landmines and genocide, I came across the Human Rights Watch website. (Which, by the way, is only accessible over my internet connection in China via a website that anonymizes or hides the web address you are visiting from the server, allowing blocked websites to be viewed.) I am more than a little overwhelmed. How do we address these problems? Now that I know what I know and have seen what I have seen, what do I do?

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